Comment to Jeffrey Goldberg and Marc Ambinder Published in “Atlantic.”

By S. M. Hali

The “Atlantic” magazine, in its article with the same title as above carried in the December 2011 issue has attacked Pakistan and its nuclear program tooth and nail. However, the authors of the article, Jeffrey Goldberg and Marc Ambinder, who claim to have put in six months of research, have apparently never set foot in Pakistan and concocted their fabrication from the comfort of their arm chairs. The leader of the Strategic Plans Division (SPD), the custodians of Pakistan’s nuclear arsenal and the secretariat of neither the Nuclear Command Authority, nor its mid-ranking officers have ever heard the names of these scribes, let alone talking to them. It was rather surprising, since the SPD is fairly transparent in interacting with both the national and international media.

The fictional scenario of the Pakistan Army Chief calling up Lieutenant General Khalid Kidwai (Retd.), the Director General of SPD in the aftermath of the May 02 attack on Abbottabad to eliminate Osama, perhaps is meant to lend credence to the 10,000 words fairy tale conjured with malicious intent and malign Pakistan and its nuclear assets. The tirade is so full of holes and self contradiction that it is surprising how a journal of the repute of “Atlantic” lent space to it, unless it too is part of a more sinister and macabre propaganda. It commences with the preamble that Pakistan is an “unstable and violent country located at the epicenter of global jihadism”. That much is correct although we need not go into the discussion that the violence and instability has been caused by the US itself, by interfering in Pakistan’s domestic politics and its involvement in the war on terror at the behest of the US. In the same article, the authors respectfully acknowledge the professionalism of the Pakistan Army as well as the SPD, even quoting erudite scholars, yet they contradict themselves by claiming the SPD transports nuclear warheads in public transports. What could be more ridiculous than that? They claim that the SPD tries to hide the warheads from USA and not the terrorists. If that were true, the US would by now have taken action towards it or the terrorists stolen a nuke or two. Although it is extremely amateurish to imagine that a ragtag militia would be able to put together a sophisticated nuclear device and explode it by simply pilfering a warhead.

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To provide essence to the flavor of bigotry and deceit, the authors take the instance of the attacks on a bus carrying PAF personnel at Sargodha, another at a naval installation at Karachi and at the gates of Pakistan’s Ordnance Factory at Wah as targeting nuclear installations. Since neither the authors and for that matter, the CIA or State Department know the location of Pakistan’s nuclear arsenal what to say of the number of warheads it possesses, (the authors quote General James Jones, former National Security Adviser to Obama as expressing no knowledge of the location of Pakistan’s nukes) it is preposterous to imply that the frequent attacks by the terrorist organizations on Pakistan’s armed forces personnel as retaliation for the successful operations by Pakistan Army to eradicate terrorism, as attacks on nuclear installations. The authors have even taken pains to publish a map indicating the supposed locations of Pakistan’s nuclear warheads. It must be relief for the custodians of the nukes to see how widely off mark they appear to be.

In fact if the Abbottabad incident left any aftereffects, it must have been to analyze, augment security procedures and plug the gaps that were exposed in its aftermath. One swallow does not make a summer; hence the detractors of Pakistan’s nukes should give up the Walter Mittyish scenario being presented of nabbing and grabbing Pakistan’s nukes and failing that, maligning their custodians. In fact the authors have presented a factual comment about the US being “the ally from hell” and in the words of the authors, “with a friend like this, who needs enemies?”

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